A federal judge gave a white former St. Louis police officer less than half the prison time his own defense lawyers had asked for on Monday after he was convicted for his role in the beating of an undercover Black colleague during the 2017 racial justice protests in the city.
Dustin Boone, 37, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for aiding and abetting the deprivation of civil rights under color of law of undercover officer Luther Hall. He was convicted in June after a nine-day trial.
Prosecutors had asked that Boone be imprisoned for 10 years; his own defense team had asked for just over two years.
By sentencing Boone to one day over the one-year sentence, US District Judge E. Richard Webber ensured the former police officer will also be eligible to have time taken off his sentence for good behavior.
The light sentence prompted Hall and his stunned supporters to walk out of the courtroom in disgust, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The incident occurred during weeks of protests in St. Louis prompted by the acquittal of another former police officer, Jason Stockley, over the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.
On the evening of Sept. 17, 2017, Hall had been undercover when he was pinned to the ground by Boone and beaten with a baton by a third officer, Randy Hays, who both mistook Hall for a protester.
The beating left Hall, who had not violated any laws and was not resisting arrest, with permanent injuries and pain, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. (He subsequently reached a $5 million settlement with the department.)
Prosecutors released evidence showing Boone had been "showing off" for his girlfriend by livestreaming his actions to her via a FaceTime video call.
She had texted him that viewing the footage was "SOOOOOO COOL," but after learning days later that he had assaulted a fellow officer, he wrote to her saying, "Nothing about that story to anyone please. Not something I am proud of."
Prosecutors also released text messages Boone had written to other officers prior to the beating in which he appeared to relish the opportunity to violently squash the protests.
"But it's gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart," he wrote in one message.
They also released evidence showing that months before, Boone had used the n-word in a text with another officer, and that he had previously boasted about being violent with people he had arrested.
The government had asked for a 10-year prison sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense and deter criminal conduct by officers.
"Our society has delegated the use of appropriate force to our law enforcement officers," prosecutors wrote. "The vast majority of police officers take this responsibility seriously. Defendant did not."
Boone's defense attorneys argued he did not initiate the attack on Hall, nor strike him, but instead kneeled on Hall's back and used his hands to hold down the undercover officer's neck.
They said Boone "fell prey to a police culture of excessive force that permeated his own department," but that he should be judged for his individual actions and not made a "sacrificial lamb" for every police officer.
The defense attorneys admitted Boone's texts were "repugnant" and "offensive," but included statements from friends and family that the officer was "not a racist."
In response to that defense, prosecutors released racist text messages between Boone and his family to argue that "they shared his sentiments."
The text messages showed Boone's father, mother, and sister comparing the Black protesters to monkeys, using the word "niglets," and saying the demonstrators were banging drums as if "they were back in Africa doing a rain dance."
"The family's contention that the texts do not reflect the 'real' defendant are contradicted by their own offensive texts," prosecutors wrote.
In his sentencing, Webber said he believed officers had used unreasonable force on Hall because he is Black, but said Boone was not one of the officers who beat or kicked him, according to the Post-Dispatch.
In July, Webber sentenced Hays, the former officer who struck Hall with the baton, to just over four years in prison.
Webber sentenced a third former officer, Bailey Colletta, to three years of probation and two consecutive weekends in prison for lying to a grand jury about the incident.
One of the attorneys representing Hall, the victim, told BuzzFeed News he was not yet ready to speak with media.
But before Boone was sentenced, Hall told Webber he believed the prior two sentences demonstrated "leniency that’s not shown to African American defendants."
"You’ve increased that racial divide in the city," Hall told the judge.